Before the start of the 2020/21 season, Barcelona were a complete wreck. Already suffering from the ignominy of a trophyless season and blighted by boardroom issues, Lionel Messi’s desire to leave also presented another huge conundrum to the club.
The Argentine magician, who has been at the Camp Nou since he was an adolescent, wanted to walk away after becoming frustrated with the club’s lack of ambition in recent years.
By the time the season kick-started though, the Blaugrana hadn’t just got Messi to stay, stability had also been duly restored to the dressing room.
The Catalans started the season with an emphatic 3-0 win over Villarreal, playing some fantastic, free-flowing football.
Ronald Koeman's mission Barcelona
The man tasked with leading the club back to the summit of European football is Ronald Koeman.
The Dutchman quit his job as coach of the Netherlands national team to join Barcelona. Having played for the Catalan club in the past, he didn’t hesitate to return as their manager.
But Koeman’s arrival wasn’t greeted with fanfare by all the fans. The chaos which preceded his appointment meant that some Barcelona fans extended their anger at the board to the former Everton boss.
That, coupled with the departure of Luis Suarez, who is a good friend of Messi’s and a fan favourite, meant the Dutchman had it all to do to win over the Barcelona fanbase.
Two games in though, he seems to be already turning things around. The players look fitter and hungrier for success, while he’s also gradually moving the team away from its overdependence on Messi.
Koeman is trusting the club’s youth system, with Ansu Fati thriving in the first team. The likes of Carles Alena, Riqui Puig and Francisco Trincao are also being selected in the matchday squads and Philippe Coutinho is again enjoying his football.
Thursday’s 3-0 win over Celta Vigo highlighted everything that Koeman is trying to achieve with Barcelona. They dominate opponents, they are proactive on the pitch and are quick to regroup when they are not in possession.
Having not won at Celta Vigo for five years, this was by far the club’s best away performance in a long while.
“We have done a great job, I am very proud. We have worked with a lot of discipline with one less and we have created good chances. I’m very happy," said Koeman in the aftermath of the game.
"It was important to talk to the team at halftime, about the system. We have been very compact. In the end the result is fair," he added.
“I cannot comment on what happened last year. From day one I have seen the players very hungry. They have trained with great intensity, they play as they train. Today they have shown until the last second, on a difficult field, that we are very well physically," Koeman said.
“Like any coach, I need time, but the team is much better than you might think. We have six points, we have scored seven goals and we have not conceded any. This shows that we are growing.”
Indeed, Barcelona are improving and they already look far better than they were at this stage last season.
Trophies are bound to return to the Cam Nou if they can maintain this intensity in games. The Koeman revolution is truly underway.Published 03 Oct 2020, 00:19 IST